Thailand bans smoking on 20 popular beaches: one year prison or a 100,000 baht fine

Those caught lighting up could face a year’s imprisonment as the government seeks to end pollution and drain damage on Thai beaches caused by discarded cigarette butts.Thailand is to ban smoking on some of the country’s most popular tourist beaches, with the prospect of up to a year in prison for those caught lighting up, according to reports by local media.

The move follows a recent survey of litter on Patong beach, Phuket – visited by millions of foreign tourists each year – which found an average of 0.76 cigarette butts per square metre in a sample area, which would amount to 101,058 butts on the 2.5km-long stretch of sand.

The survey was undertaken by the country’s department of marine and coastal resources, which described it as a “serious problem”. Discarded cigarette butts accounted for a third of rubbish collected by the department.

The ban, which will come into play in November, will affect 20 beaches including: Patong, Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nai (Phuket); Hua Hin, Cha-Am, Khao Takiab (western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan); Pattaya, Jomtien, Bangsaen (eastern province of Chonburi) and Samila (Songkhla city).

Cigarette butts pose a risk to beach ecosystems, say Thailand government officials. “Cigarettes have a direct effect on the natural environment,” director general Jatuporn Buruspat told the Phuket Gazette. “The butts clog the drains contributing to floods. When the cigarettes stay under the beach sand for a long time, it also negatively affects the eco system. And then when the chemicals from the cigarette butts reach the water, it also releases cadmium, lead, arsenic and some acid from insecticide which are poison to the natural food chain.”After a trial period, the ban is expected to be enforced on all Thai beaches, as well as on passenger and tourist boats, to tackle the problem of butts damaging the underwater environment. Anyone found to be breaking the law will face one year in jail or a maximum 100,000 baht fine, or both.

The Bangkok Post also reported the news, adding that Thailand has the sixth most rubbish-strewn areas of sea in the world.

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Thai ban on e-cigarettes could lead to ’10-year jail term’

A travel agent is urging others to tell their customers not to vape in Thailand as they could face up to 10 years in prison.

Pat Waterton, manager at Langley Travel, said she was unaware of the ban. She only learnt of the law when her nephew James was forced to pay $200 as an on-the-spot fine after being threatened with jail for having an e-cigarette in Bangkok.

The prison themed hostel in Bangkok that turns travellers into inmates
Speaking to Travel Weekly Waterton said: “If I’m selling Thailand I will definitely mention it now. All agents should. Thailand is very popular so we should make sure we are telling people about things that could ruin a holiday.”

In November 2014, Thailand approved legislation outlawing the import of e-cigarettes into the country. This has since been expanded to the export as well as sale of e-smoking devices and equipment. Although it is common to see people vaping in Thailand offenders are technically breaking the law as possession is illegal.

The Foreign Office advice is clear. On its website it instructs travellers not to bring vaporisers (like e-cigarettes) or refills into Thailand. The Foreign Office said: “These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.

“The sale or supply of e-cigarettes and similar devices is also banned and you could face a heavy fine or up to five years imprisonment if found guilty. Several British Nationals have been arrested for possession of vaporisers and e-cigarettes.”

Kuoni, a UK tour operator which handles trips to Thailand, said it always advises travellers to check with the Foreign Office before embarking on a trip. A spokesperson for Kuoni said: “We encourage our customers to be travel aware and to visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Aware site for foreign travel advice before they book.

“Travel Aware information can be found on our website and our Personal Travel Experts in store direct customers to the site at holiday planning stages for specific country advice, including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health.”

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